Democracy is not merely a form of government. It is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience. It is essentially an attitude of respect and reverence towards fellow men.
Thus spake the polymath Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, the Father of the Indian Constitution. It needs no advanced knowledge, but merely the ability of observation to realize the sagacity behind the aforesaid quote. Consisting as a democratic government does of individuals elected by people, implementing their will is an integral part of the sacrosanct agreement between the government and the people so far as ideals go. The unwritten yet ideally agreed upon duty of the government is to recognize people as the authority and itself as merely the institution of their agents authorized to govern in the interests of the nation.
Yet, the very essence of an agreement is the acceptance of responsibility by the co-signatory, in less measure though it may be. In a conventionally passive country like ours, it remains an oft-forgotten fact that the people are collectively a signatory to the same agreement. Truly so, the government is responsible for the implementation of national interest. We assert as much, but we as citizens forget our share of responsibility — an equally significant part of the emblematic agreement between the government and the people. Ascending the palisade of glory as India does amidst all obstacles, it would be most impolitic for the citizenry to not be active in governance in its own capacity. When war threatens the integrity of a nation, the government must amass all employable strength in its beholden endeavour to defend, and what are ideal citizens in such a situation, but soldiers united in the same cause?
The current circumstances between India and China may not indicate a conventional war, but do concern the integrity of India. Twenty of our soldiers attained martyrdom in their endeavour to impede malice prepense from China. Should this not engender a sentiment of profound national insult, it would raise questions about the spirit of nationalism in the country. To compromise on national integrity is to err. With the wave of nationalism having swept across the country, the inebriated machinery of the government which was only too glad to keep losing land to China earlier, would now be compelled to take a decisive stand. To channel the anger among the masses in the appropriate direction is, therefore, of utmost essence.
Prime Minister Modi had given a clarion call for Aatmanirbhar Bharat. Almost as evidence of the vexing propensity of the citizens to leave everything to the government and do little by itself, the calls for boycotting Chinese products have hitherto remained only seasonal Twitter trends. On this occasion, however, with a greater number of public intellectuals than ever before endorsing the same, the public might be led to truly undertake the proposed boycott.
Indeed, I spiritedly disagree with those who have sought to ridicule this sentiment of anger. It is true that destroying the products already bought that have been manufactured in China serves no purpose, because China has already received the money for it. The intended aim is to henceforth reduce one’s dependence on Chinese products to the extent possible, in favour of indigenous goods.
The government can provide incentives to indigenous manufacturers and increase expenditure on R&D. It may also impose duties on imports from China. Yet, this shall not suffice. The participation by citizens is of equal if not greater essence. We as citizens can help by recognizing indigenous effort. Nothing, for instance, forbids us from utilizing websites such as Swadeshi Tech that provide Indian and other foreign alternatives to numerous Chinese applications. This website has been built by a school student. The youth market would truly prove opportune and we must not fail in bolstering it using such means as possible.
We cannot counter the Chinese monopoly in hardware manufacturing at present, but an attempt at promoting indigenous software is a good beginning. The same holds true for daily necessities such as soaps, shampoos, hair oils, stationery et al. This is the prerogative, nay the duty of the citizens. It is only through R&D, incentivization and perseverance that we could eventually develop adequate robustness in hardware manufacturing.
Some skeptics have objected to this endeavour on two grounds, namely: (1) that doing so would be detrimental to the Chinese common people with whom we have no quarrel, and (2) that some other country may well be prompted to do so against us in the future. Pessimistic opinions consequently formed are so bereft of substance that one cannot help but wonder at the prescience of such skeptics. I address these concerns hereunder:
- Foremost, it is not the priority of the Government of India to be concerned about the interests of the Chinese common people. Their government is qualified for that endeavour. The priority of the Government of India is to be concerned about the best interests of India. Our country is under no obligation to be the platitudinous apostle of global compassion — concerned for one and all. The monopoly of China in the market has made it difficult for indigenous manufacturers to find appropriate space in the market. I fail to see why the skeptics cannot view this as a measure that can, as a corollary if not in chief capacity, contribute to eventual prosperity for them. Secondly, it could not possibly be so detrimental to the Chinese people as to constitute an economic cataclysm. As stated earlier, China enjoys a global monopoly insofar as manufacturing is concerned. Indian action alone could not concern it so great a manner as to lead it to focus entirely on it. I would contend that our relations have deteriorated beyond recondition. China is a mercantilist state, and as defence analyst Major Gaurav Arya observes, China shall not cease being expansionist even in the event that bilateral trade crosses $500 billion. India’s attempts at propitiating China shall always be futile. Decisive action is a must. This may prompt other countries to impose their own sanctions on China, thereby communicating to it that its belligerence shall invite consequences. The mere apprehension that the Chinese people would face a little inconvenience should not impede the government from taking appropriate steps in India’s interest.
- It is an instance of timidity and I daresay amateurism to not reduce dependence on Chinese goods with the fear that another country would hypothetically reduce imports from India. Why would a country be prompted to do so unless it be crucial to its economy, so long as India does not project itself as a belligerent nation? Could a country not consider it crucial to do so regardless of our courteous relations with it? It is only courtesy that we can ensure. The decision to reduce imports from India is inevitably the prerogative of that country. The resolute stand by India constitutes an act of statesmanship, for as Abhijit Iyer-Mitra notes, India has set a precedent against China. It has inflicted greater damage on China than the damage it received itself, which is an encouraging gesture for such countries as are engaged in territorial disputes with China. I regret to say, therefore, that such exhibition of timidity evinces lack of prescience.
It would be preposterous to consider such skeptics sympathetic to Chinese interests. However, as opposed to briskly arriving at opinions that may create such an unfortunate impression, they had rather subjected their questions to a more profound analysis to their own benefit. This is particularly important given that Indians are sentimental people and the current situation is a catalyst for ignited passions.
If India is to be a superpower, it must steadily incorporate the demeanour that befits one. No organization would “declare” India a superpower upon reaching a particular threshold of nominal GDP or a rank on the Global Firepower Index. It is gradually achieved by a blend of high HDI, military power, firm resolve and proactive diplomacy. While India may eventually progress on the former two parameters, it must concentrate direly on the latter two. Not the least, the people must be active in supporting such national endeavours and work in tandem with the government for national interest.